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News

Emiliano Lerda Honored by Drake Law School

Media Release | March 30, 2019

Drake University Law School announced the outstanding recipients of this year’s alumni awards, including Emiliano Lerda, LW’08, executive director of ILC. Three award winners will be honored at its 82nd Annual Supreme Court Celebration Banquet and Awards Ceremony Saturday, March 30, 2019.

“Recent Alumni of the Year” Recognized for Professional Success & Community Impact

The Recent Alumni of the Year award recognizes Drake Law School alumni who have graduated in the past 15 years, have seen a high level of professional success early in their careers, and have made an impact on the community through public service.

Originally from Argentina, Emiliano Lerda was drawn to America’s Midwest because its agricultural environment reminded him of his native Cordoba province. He joined the Immigrant Legal Center (ILC), formerly known as Justice for Our Neighbors of Nebraska, as executive director in 2011. ILC is a nonprofit law firm that provides free immigration legal services, education, and advocacy for low-income immigrants. When Lerda joined ILC, the organization had a single office, with three full-time employees managing a 500-case load, and an annual operating budget of approximately $250,000. As of 2019, the organization has expanded to nine offices across the state of Nebraska and southwest Iowa. They have 46 full-time employees, 20 of whom are attorneys, managing over 3,800 cases per year with an annual operating budget in excess of $3.6 million. In 2018, ILC successfully completed a $3.3 million capital campaign to acquire a 23,000 square foot office building in Omaha, providing a permanent headquarters for ILC.

Lerda graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies at the University of Northern Iowa, becoming the first international student elected student body president. He holds a Juris Doctor from Drake University Law School with certificates in Public Service Law, Food and Agriculture Law, and International Comparative and Human Rights Law. He has a Master of Laws from the University of Arkansas School of Law. He also completed the Harvard Business School’s Executive Education Program in Strategic Perspectives in Nonprofit Management. Lerda is licensed to practice law in the state of Iowa.

At Drake . . .

As a student at Drake Law School, Lerda was a Public Service Scholar. As an alumnus, he has continued to be involved on campus. In 2012, Drake Law Students became the first U.S. legal group to visit Cuba to study agricultural law. Lerda has been instrumental in the success in those trips, just one way he stays involved. “Drake Law School gave me so much more than the degree I received. I built lasting relationships with faculty, staff, and students which have propelled my personal and professional development. I am extremely grateful to be a part of the Drake Law School Family—so many have been a source of inspiration in my life. Now, I strive to pay it forward,” he says. Lerda is passionate about building sustainable organizations that make a positive impact in the community. He is fluent in Spanish and English. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his wife and two sons, hiking, running, and bicycling.

Two Additional Awards

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., JO’91, LW’92, was named the 2019 Alumni of the Year; and Jerry Foxhoven, LW’77, received the Distinguished Public Service Award.  Read their accomplishments.